The Rays have released the 2021 regular season schedule, a surprise in the midst of a pandemic that has dramatically altered the 2020 schedule, and which the CDC estimates only 10% of the population has been exposed to thus far.
Side Note: A reporter for the New York Times made the analogy yesterday that if the pandemic were a baseball game, we are in the second inning...
Nevertheless, here we are:
For the first time in recent memory the Rays will not begin a season at home in 2021, if the schedule remains the same. Not since 2009 did the Rays not have a home opener to kick off the season, and honestly that’s a bit of a bummer.
The Rays will play their home opener against the New York Yankees on Friday, April 9, beginning a seven-game homestand against the Yankees (April 9-11) and Texas Rangers (April 12-15). It will be the fifth time the Rays host the Yankees in their home opener, following wins in 2004 (8-3, game was played in Japan), 2009 (15-5), 2012 (7-6) and 2017 (7-3).
Yet again, the baseball season will begin on a Thursday, with times yet to be announced. Including 2020’s original regular-season schedule, the 2021 season will mark the fourth consecutive year that all 30 clubs are scheduled to play on traditional Opening Day. In addition, Opening Day in 2021 could become the first season since 1968 that every team across the majors plays their first game of the season on the same day.
For the ninth straight season, Tampa Bay will play 20 interleague games. They will oppose all five teams from the NL East for a second consecutive year. The Rays are scheduled to host the New York Mets (May 14-16), Philadelphia Phillies (May 29-30), Washington Nationals (June 8-9) and Marlins (September 24-26). They will play interleague road series at Miami (April 1-3), Washington (June 29-30), the Atlanta Braves (July 16-18) and Philadelphia (August 24-25).
The Rays will play 19 games against each of their AL East rivals: the Baltimore Orioles (10 home, 9 away), Red Sox (10 home, 9 away), Yankees (9 home, 10 away) and Toronto Blue Jays (9 home, 10 away). The Rays will play seven games against the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Rangers. They will have six games apiece against the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
The Rays end the season with a six-game road trip to Houston (September 28-30) and New York-AL (October 1-3). It will be the second time they finish their regular season in the Bronx, following their inaugural season on September 27, 1998.
Here are some other observations:
- The opening and closing road trips are full of rivals: Miami (Citrus Series) and Boston (AL East) to start April, and Houston (2019 Playoffs) and New York (AL East) to close the year, stretching into October.
- It will be interesting to face the NL East again in 2021 after 1⁄3 of the 2020 season will be played against that division.
- Playing against the AL West will be a drag on the schedule — particularly in June when the Rays fly to New York, Dallas, Home and then Chicago, Seattle, Home.
- Kansas City pops up on the Rays schedule in April and May and then drops from the calendar
- The only month in which the Rays do not face the Red Sox is May
- The only month in which the Rays do not face the Yankees is August
- The Rays play in Atlanta in the series following the All-Star Break at that stadium — a great opportunity to fly team members up early to support their colleagues appearing in the game.